Eleanor Shakespeare Fresh

Eleanor Shakespeare

This London-based illustrator imbues her photomontages with context and color.

Eleanor Shakespeare

eleanorshakespeare.com

Duration: Four years. 

Location: London, United Kingdom.

Education: BFA in illustration from University of the West of England, Bristol. 

Career path: My dad is an artist and my mum is a poet. They brought me up in a household that encouraged and celebrated creativity, be it art, music or writing, so I was bound to end up doing something expressive. My foundation course at the University for the Creative Arts campus in Epsom, United Kingdom, was hugely important in helping me decide which creative discipline was right for me. I specialized in graphic design before moving into illustration. My illustrations are digital photomontages, which tend to fit a really wide range of topics and contexts! 

It’s so important to see one’s artwork in a context broader than the here and now and to understand how one thing informs another.”

Artistic influences: I’m inspired by contemporary artists and illustrators as well as older, more traditional work. It’s so important to see one’s artwork in a context broader than the here and now and to understand how one thing informs another. The recent Rauschenberg exhibition at the Tate Modern was beautiful, as was the astoundingly popular Hockney show at the Tate Britain. I find great pleasure in London, but frequent visits to see my brother in New York have left me pining for the even more intense buzz I’ve found there. Color is also significant to me; my parents lovingly decorated and renovated my childhood home, and its colors and details still influence the palettes I use in my work. 

Favorite projects: Illustrating the book Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees has really been the highlight of my career so far, not only in terms of subject matter, but also creatively—I suppose the two are inextricably linked. It’s arguably my best, most heartfelt work because I felt so passionately about the stories I was illustrating. I was feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken by the refugee crisis in Europe, and working on this book, aimed at children aged eight to eleven, provided an opportunity for me not only to explore this subject as a designer, but also to feel like I worked on something that has the potential to change people’s minds. It’s always a great privilege your work overlaps and the issues that you are personally, emotionally invested in.

Aspirations: Definitely to still be illustrating in five to ten years! I love working on books, so I want to make more, as well as to pursue projects that really excite me. I’d also like to work on more advertising and design projects—maybe even packaging. I love being challenged, so moving my illustrations into new contexts is where I want to be headed. I also teach part time in a school, but I’m considering more options in higher education and tutoring. Watch this space! 

Philosophy: It’s important to work really hard—to fully commit to your practice and to not let people down. Always deliver on time, and make sure you are reliable and available. It’s equally important to create a healthy work/life balance, especially as a freelancer. It’s fine if there are times when you must absolutely kill yourself to finish a job—so long as you accept the times when things are slower. 

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